Think you can't be a foster parent? The myths keeping people from signing up | September 8, 2017
by Megan Abundis

Social services representatives across the Central Coast say there is a severe shortage of foster homes.

For the first time in a number of years, both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties say they are seeing a very large number of kids coming into foster care and a decreasing availability of foster parents and foster homes.

Right now in San Luis Obispo County, there are 165 kids and teens who are in need of homes.

The Department of Social Services says common myths may be getting in the way of those wanting to be a foster parent.

One Paso Robles family wants to bust those myths and change the lives of foster kids on the Central Coast.

Ted and Cynthia Fletcher fostered, then adopted, four girls - Bailey, Jasmine, Lexi, and Sadie.

"There are kids all over this community and this state that have nothing, they come with a little bit of clothes, and what we wanted to do... when they leave, even if it was a short period of time, give them nice clothes, give him a bed to sleep in, a blanket, love, unconditional love," Ted Fletcher said.

The Fletchers say the girls, through no fault of their own, came to them young and from homes of abuse, drugs and neglect.

"We have children and siblings that are being separated, we have children who are not able to return to their schools or communities. Children deserve to be in safe and loving homes," said Julie DeFranco, Program Manager for the San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services.

"If a kid is in my home for a week, I want it to be the best time in her life. I want them to know that you're loved unconditionally," Fletcher said.

"The first time in my life, I actually know what love is," said Bailey Fletcher. "I think it's kind of something everyone deserves, to love and feel and know that they are loved by their family and they are protected by those who are supposed to protect them."

So what might be preventing people from becoming foster parents? DeFranco responds to the following myths:

Myth: I don't own my home so I can't be a foster parent
"You can own your home, you can rent your home, you definitely don't need to own your home to be a foster parent."
Myth: I'm single so I can't be a foster parent
"You are welcome to become a foster parent just as much as someone who has a partner or someone who is married. We're looking for caring individuals who can provide a safe and loving home."
Myth: I work full time; I won't have a lot of time to spend on foster kids
"We have resources and supports but (as) part of the process, we work with you to identify what works best for you, what works best for your family in terms of the ages and your availability."
Myth: I'm too old to be a foster parent
"We are looking again for individuals who have a heart in making a difference in the life of a child. That's not an issue, that's not something the county would rule out. We have many families who are in their 50s, 60s, 70s who are foster parents. What we are looking for is loving, safe individuals who want to open their homes."
Myth: I don't have children of my own or parenting experience so I can't be a foster parent
"Well, until you have a child, none of us have experience and so the good news is that there is a lot of support. Depending on what your needs are, we are here to support you. We provide in-home behavioral services, we provide parenting education, therapeutic services. We are there to support you and loving, caring for that child."
Myth: If I want to be a foster parent, I have to adopt
"As long as you are willing to consider concurrent planning, which means they would consider to be a long term placement options for the child. But many of our children need a temporary home and there is a real need for that as well."
Myth: It's expensive to be a foster parent
"If you are certified through the county or through 'Family Care Network' we provide fiscal stipends to support day to day care in support of children. We provide medical care for the children, we pay for all therapeutic service, medical service, and special needs services."
Myth: I don't get to have a preference of what type of child to foster
"People have preferences, and we do, do our best. But the way that life happens is that children come to us when they come to us. When there is a need we reach out and ask people to step outside of what they originally thought they were interested in and consider giving a home to child."

So what do you have to provide as a foster parent? Social Services says you need proof of a stable source of income, a safe home, food, guidance, and mentorship.

"We're asking that of you and to open your heart and open your home to provide a safe and loving place for a child," DeFranco said.

At any given time, San Luis Obispo County has about 350 children in foster care.

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